Come Monday morning the pristine white lines and hundreds of tons of clay that have been manicured for weeks will be disrupted by sliding shoes and the inevitable smashing of tennis rackets. The French Open at Roland Garros is back, and it’s shaping up to be one of the most intriguing for a number of years.
There’s no Rafael Nadal – the injured Spaniard missing his favoured Grand Slam for the first time since 2004 – but world No1 Carlos Alcaraz, widely tipped to be the next King of Clay, will start the fortnight as favourite.
Absent, too, are retired duo Serena Williams and Roger Federer. It is set to be a very different, very opportunistic French Open this year in the suburbs of Paris.
Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic have been trading world No1 spot throughout the year but the young Spaniard will be top seed ahead of the Serb on Monday.
Women’s No1 Iga Swiatek, who is yet to confirm her participation in the French capital, remains favourite for the Suzanne-Lenglen Cup.
And when you look at the British contingent, it’s somewhat underwhelming.
Cameron Norrie’s best in France is the third round and lost at that stage in this year’s Australian Open.
Andy Murray will miss the slam to focus competing in the grass court season.
Britain’s hopes, therefore, could rest on the likes of Jack Draper, Kyle Edmund, Katie Boulter, Ryan Peniston, Liam Broady, Jan Choinski and Harriet Dart.
There’s something special about the clay courts of the French capital; they stand out on the circuit alongside the green grass of Wimbledon in a calendar dominated by plain hard court surfaces.
It may be the second youngest slam on the circuit, but it is one which has created some of the greatest moments in the sport.
Nadal is synonymous with the French Open, winning 13 of his 22 slams at Roland Garros.
But it looks as if the legend is on his way to a life of retirement, confirming last week that the 2024 season would be his last.
So tennis is in need of a new star to own the sporting catwalk in the capital of fashion. Plenty believe that it will be Alcaraz, but the likes of Holger Rune and veteran Djokovic will have something to say about handing a second slam to the 20-year-old.
The Spaniard did, however, lose to then-world No135 Fabian Marozsan this month on clay.
And though many, too, cannot see past Swiatek, there are threats from across the field that could derail the Polish star’s hopes of winning a third French Open.
Elena Rybakina, last year’s Wimbledon winner, has been in fine form this year and won in Rome last week while also making a number of other finals in 2023.
Aryna Sabalenka will also fancy her chances at Roland Garros – the Belarusian is world No2 and hot on the heels of Swiatek in the rankings.
It’s hard to remember a French Open that has been so, well, open in both the men’s and women’s draws simultaneously. But with an increasing number of legends leaving the game, there’s a gaping opportunity for youngsters to come in, take the court by its net and give the sport a good shake up.